US Representatives To Expand Access To Quality Healthcare With The Telehealth Extension Act

The Telehealth Extension Act has been introduced by the bipartisan members of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, led by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX). Cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and David Schweikert (R-AZ). This bill seeks to guarantee permanent access to telehealth services.
Several prominent telehealth supporters, such as the National Rural Health Association, the eHealth Initiative, the American Nurses Association, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, have endorsed the bill. This legislation seeks to abolish geographic and site limitations, enabling Medicare beneficiaries to use telehealth services no matter where they are located. Currently, these limitations are in place, limiting telehealth use to people living in rural areas and those being treated in certain clinics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary waivers were issued to suspend these restrictions, but they will be revoked when the public health emergency ends. Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s office has also issued a press release, explaining that permanently removing these limitations will make it easier for all Americans to access telehealth services, regardless of their location.
U.S. Representatives Lloyd Doggett and Mike Thompson have proposed the bill to extend certain COVID-19 emergency telehealth waivers for two years, which would allow specialty providers such as speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists to provide Medicare coverage for telehealth services. The bill also includes provisions to ensure that critical access hospitals can keep providing outpatient behavioral therapy via telehealth and to ensure proper reimbursement for audio-only telehealth services. Doggett noted that expanded access to telehealth has been a game-changer for healthcare delivery, helping patients easily and safely connect to their physicians. To address telehealth fraud, the bill would require an in-person appointment prior to administering expensive DME or lab tests and would allow CMS to monitor and identify providers who are ordering and billing Medicare for DME and lab tests at higher-than-normal rates. In addition, the Telehealth Extension Act will prioritize increasing virtual care access in underserved communities by supporting the adoption of telehealth at federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, Indian Health Service facilities, and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems.
The Telehealth Extension Act has strong support from telehealth supporters, and if passed, could make a significant impact on healthcare delivery in the US. The bill is a major step in the right direction towards expanding access to quality healthcare for all Americans.